On January 3, 2018 the internet became a place full of hope, love and pride for the small minority of Americans who identify as Muslim, and Palestinian. How could it not? The very first Muslim-American WOMEN were sworn into the United States Congress. I felt an immense source of pride, happiness and hope for our country. I felt so American, so American while fully embracing my Palestinian heritage and Muslim faith. It felt so natural to be all of those things at that point – a feeling so huge for a first generation American.
The internet went ablaze with the #tweetyourthoub phenonema because Rashida Tlaib wore her Palestinian dress (thoub) as she was sworn into the 116th session of Congress. Palestinian-American women throughout the US and beyond took a moment to enjoy the milestone, a moment of sisterhood, of love and triumph – a moment that symbolized to our daughters that yes, you can do it, that yes, we belong here. I couldn’t help but get swept up in the excitement of it as well, I took to social media and used the hashtag to post images of my beautiful Palestinian dresses as well.
I follow Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib on social media and posted a comment on her Instagram: “We are all so proud of you girl!! I wore my Palestinian vest proudly to work!! (hearts).
Then. The. Internet. Happened.
Since I was one of the first to comment on her post, it was easily visible to those who went onto her post to…for lack of a better word, troll. And oh my! The internet can be a miserable place – the feelings of love, hope and belonging I felt just hours ago were being re-examined internally because of the vile comments people were leaving as responses to my post. Although I know people like this exist, I try not to give them space because their energy is draining. I am an eternal optimist, regardless of life experiences, or what I see in the world I believe that essentially more people are inclined to good rather than evil. Reading those comments, however, had me reevaluate that assessment.
That was just the beginning – I had to consciously stop checking because those comments were not only hurtful, but they were pretty scary. These people may see the internet as an alternate reality – they are not saying these things in person, face to face, but they are feeling this way. They THINK this way – and more importantly I started to think about the peril these women, and all people of color and their allies, who place themselves in positions of potential danger when they decide to speak up, stand up and fight bigotry for a better America.
The reemerging theme in multiple comments were “Muslims do not belong in US government” and “Go back to your country”. Ironically, as I read these comments I couldn’t help but feel even more excited about the fact that the first Native American women, and the first African-American teacher (yes, multiple hearts here) were all sworn into Congress on the same day. Change does not happen because people decide to try to combat hope with hateful comments on the internet. These women who are now part of our federal governing body have shown us that change happens through action – people who do have more power than people who say.
These women are here to stay. I, in all of my identity and my #tweetmythoub-ness, am here to stay. American history is complex, it is brutal – but that does not mean our future has to be the same, these women are not here for a repetition of history. They are here for a better America, one that includes all of us who have chosen this country as home. Women will act to make this country a better place for our children, and grandchildren – that is what they are stepping up to the plate for, they are putting themselves on the forefront of the alternate, dark side of the internet, and the dark side of reality so that WE can hope. And we have a responsibility to that, which is to combat any darkness with light, and power.
And that’s what we’re here for, whether women are feeling so American in their thoub, or their white outfits, or their hijabs there is no contradiction. We can still be American and proud of our heritage and faith, regardless of what that heritage and faith may be. It is time for America to wake up and invest in a collective vision for our future. This new generation of Congresswomen have stepped up to the plate to play their part, are you here to play yours?